Helmets now required for bicyclists

The revised Road Traffic Act (Japan) came into effect on April 1, 2023. The requirements for bicycle riders to comply has been changed, especially, about wearing helmets.

Road Traffic Act
(Compliance requirements for bicycle riders, etc.)
Article 63-11 A bicycle rider shall make efforts to wear a riding helmet.
(2) A bicycle rider shall, when allowing another person to ride said bicycle, make efforts to ensure that said other person wears a riding helmet.
(3) A person responsible for the protection of a child or infant shall, when the child or infant rides a bicycle, make efforts to ensure that the child or infant wears a riding helmet.

“Duty of Effort”

The regulations were established for helmets (regulations for children were in place prior to the revision). As the regulation states, “efforts must be made,” it is a duty of effort. There is no penalty for violating the regulation.

However, the lack of penalties does not mean that this provision is meaningless. As long as it is a legal obligation, it is possible that the failure to wear a helmet may be judged unfavorably. Specifically, the amount of damages may be reduced when a person is involved in an accident without wearing a helmet.

Possible Legal Consequences

For example, consider the case where a car crashes into a bicycle and the bicylce rider is seriously injured. The car side is more likely to claim that the bicycle rider was at fault for not wearing a helmet. This can also have an impact on the determination of the percentage of fault at trial.

We will need to see the accumulation of cases to determine the actual extent of the impact. However, we assume that 5% to 10% will be added to the negligence rate of the bicycle side.

Accidents involving bicycle riders, especially those not wearing helmets, can result in serious permanent disability. In such cases, living expenses for the reduced income due to the injury will be covered by the compensation for damages. If the amount of compensation is reduced by even 5% or 10%, it may have a significant impact on the rider and his/her family’s life afterwards.

With this in mind, we hope that many people will prepare and wear a bicycle helmet as early as possible. It would be great if helmet users increase, and people who suffer serious injuries decrease.

Published by

Kei Sumikawa

Attorney at Law (Sumikawa Law Office), Kawasaki city, Japan